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No Safe Place

by Deborah Ellis

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emigration & immigration, prejudice & racism
list price: $9.95
also available: Paperback Hardcover
published: 2010
Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
p to 17
Reading age:
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Canadian Children's  Book Centre
Librarian review

No Safe Place

Abdul, Rosalia and Cheslav are all young migrants who make the heart-wrenching decision to flee their homelands to seek a better and safer life. Their separate lonely and dangerous journeys have brought them to the north coast of France where they find one another. Needing to cross the English Channel, they enlist the help of an untrustworthy smuggler, which may result in their undoing.

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2011.

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  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens
  • Short-listed, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award
  • Short-listed, SYRCA Snow Willow Award
  • Commended, Resource Links' Year's Best
  • Commended, OLA Best Bets
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Finalist for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award

Orphaned and plagued with the grief of losing everyone he loves, fifteen-year-old Abdul has made a long, fraught journey from his war-torn home in Baghdad, only to end up in The Jungle -- the squalid, makeshift migrant community in Calais.

When an altercation at the soup kitchen ends up with him accidently stabbing a policeman, Abdul has to flee, and in desperation he takes a spot in a small boat heading to England. A sudden skirmish leaves the boat stalled in the middle of the Channel, the pilot dead, and four young people remaining -- Abdul; Rosalia, a Romani girl who has escaped from the white slave trade; Cheslav, gone AWOL from a Russian military school; and Jonah, the boat pilot's ten-year-old nephew.

The four of them end up hijacking a yacht and, despite their fear and mistrust, they form a kind of makeshift family. And as the authorities close in on them, they find refuge in an unusual place -- a child's secret cave on the English coast.

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Editorial Reviews

Flashbacks involving the effects of war and poverty on communities and families drive this fast-paced and heart-wrenching narrative, which deals honestly with countless harsh realities.

— Publishers Weekly Online

This novel moves fast and furiously...exciting and moving.

— School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Flashbacks to each character's personal story are interwoven with the present-tense violence, prejudice, kindness, and community that the young characters find on their journey.

— Booklist

What the best literature for young readers can be-simple, elegant language crafted to tell a story as full and rich as life itself. Eminently memorable.

— Kirkus Review, STARRED REVIEW

Ellis' young readers love her because she speaks to them as intelligent, empathetic beings who will soon have agency in the world, and in 'No Safe Place', this gift is still powerfully evident.

— Quill & Quire, STARRED REVIEW
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